Wednesday, December 30, 2009
They’re a pretty simple candy and also rather hard to find. I picked these up at the Dollar Tree, but I haven’t seen them anywhere else in the past five years or so.
Chuckles are now made by Farley’s & Sathers but they were the brainchild of Fred Amend back in the 1920s. He was the fellow who go the bright idea to do a sugar crust on gum drops to keep them from sticking together and retain their jelly softness. The company was sold to Nabisco in 1970. At first it was a great marriage. Nabisco wasn’t known as a candy company yet they’d acquired the number one jellied candy brand. They even sponsored Evel Knieval’s attempted jump over Snake River Canyon in 1974. But Nabisco was going through its own growing pains, as it was itself acquired and apparently forgot to manage the brand. Then in a strange turn in the 80s, several former Nabisco executives bought the Chuckles brand and jelly candy company and tried to bring it back to its former glory by moving into gummis as the trend emerged.
I’m having a bit of trouble tracking the history from there. I believe that Chuckles were sold in 1987 to Leaf (Huhtamaki Oy) and then Leaf was sold to Hershey’s in 1996. Farley’s & Sathers acquired it in 2002 along with other jelly candy brands like Heide Jujyfruits and JuJubes.
About 2/3” in diameter and a 1/2” high they’re a small bite of candy. Each is shaped the same, a six pointed berry. They’re really very similar to Jujyfruits except they lack the variety of shapes.
The flavor array is identical to the classic Chuckles: Licorice, Cherry, Orange, Lemon and Lime.
The exterior is soft and dry - no sugary coating, no residual corn starch and no greasy mineral oil. The texture is very smooth, more like Dots than Jujyfruits. They’re soft and completely about the sweet and zest, not any tartness or tangy notes.
Licorice was a disappointment. It was mostly soapy and not much in the way or licorice or anise. Perhaps it got a little too much cherry near it. There’s also a bit of a menthol or minted note to it.
Cherry is quite bold. It reminded me of cherry LifeSavers, at least the smell of someone eating them nearby. Rather pleasant until the bitter Red40 aftertaste hit.
Orange is where things picked up. The citrus zest was strong, almost bitter but in an authentic way.
Lemon was also pretty zesty and fresh.
Lime was off the rails and into fragrance. I had a similar reaction to Chuckle’s green as well. It’s not the end of the world, I can eat around it.
They’re pretty and certainly pretty cheap. They do stick in my teeth in little globs and chunks pretty much like Dots.
I don’t see myself buying them again. I liked the orange and lemon, but I can just get Orange Slices if I’m in that sort of a mood. I can see these being used for decorating cupcakes or gingerbread houses, especially since they’re so inexpensive.
(The Chuckles company was one of the last companies to make the Pine Brothers glycerine cough drops I absolutely loved as a kid.)
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
This spring will mark the 5th anniversary of Candy Blog. Since the website has been largely unchanged since November 2005, I thought maybe it was time to consider giving the joint a bit of a facelift and some improvements.
So, the big question is, what do you want? After all, I write about this stuff partly in service to my readers. (And of course as a selfish excuse to eat more candy than most people should.) I’m not planning on changing the basic mission: review candy and for the most part any content in addition to that might come at the cost of those new reviews. (So if I review 4-5 times a week but everyone wants to see interviews with chocolatiers, then that would cut into the review tallies. I can write a lot in binges, as you may have noticed, but five reviews a week is about as much as I can do well.)
1. Create user accounts. They already exist in the forums, but it’d be nice if you could have your own icon show up on your comments and perhaps track your own comments across all the blog posts and within the forums. (Have a look at how Serious Eats does this as an example.) What do you want to see in the user accounts? More room to show your candy fandom? A place to favorite posts? Add your own ratings?
2. Magazine Style Home Page - where both new reviews are featured as well as some other things like candy photos, candy stores and other candy adventures. (I’m kind of up in the air on this one. I like how organized things are now, but I recognize that it works best for readers who visit regularly, it doesn’t necessarily grab new or only occasional visitors.)
3. Share This functions - so you can quickly grab a bit of a post & link to put on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
4. More helpful organization - maybe create a master database of candies. Right now the search function returns all mentions of a candy, so it’s a little wonky if you want to just find the candy itself.
5. Grand Database (with API) - For years I’ve done the stats box at the bottom of each candy review. Someday, maybe soon, I’d like to export that into a mashable database that will allow display of things like “Candies with low caloric density” or “Highest rated candy made in Germany.”
Right now, since I’m just thinking about these things, the sky is the limit with development. But the other side of the coin is the content. Do you want more reviews of high end candies (because they’re high risk) or more foreign/regional fare? More candy stores, reviews of shopping experiences? Tours of factories? I used to do a “week in review”, is there any interest in that returning? Or are you simply happy with what the blog is, a regular 4-5 candy reviews a week with some occasional other stuff.
So this is your opportunity to respond, request and even vent. What do you like, what don’t you like and what do you wish there was more of?
What I found most interesting about them, as the gooey center has been done quite a bit already, is the flavor array. These aren’t ordinary berries. Though there’s no Snozzberry the flavors are: Raspberry, Blueberry, Goji Berry and Cloud Berry.
Like the other new Wonka gummis, these are made in the Czech Republic and boast no artificial flavors or colors.
Each piece is about the same diameter as a nickel (about 3/4”). They’re high and domed candies. They’re not greasy to the touch, just soft and matte. They have a translucent amber colored gummi top with a dark red fruity goo center and it all sits on an opaque white base.
The texture is soft and chewy, with a good latexy bounce to it. The molding of each of the pieces is great and for filled gummies, I was pleased to see that none of them had oozed in the bag.
The goo reservoir in the center is rather small, just a little dab. It’s also not liquid, more of a jelly so it’s more moist than the rest of the gummi, but not a flowing syrup.
Raspberry (far right) is vivid and jammy. It’s not quite specific enough to be exclusively a raspberry, sometimes I thought it was more like a blackberry with a little black cherry note to it.
Blueberry (middle) is also lightly tangy. The unique flavors come from the goo center. It’s a little more tannic, more like it has notes of black tea mixed with the more vanilla berry flavors.
Cloud Berry - I’ve never eaten a cloud berry so I can’t talk about the authenticity of the flavor. What I can say is that it pretty much tastes like all the other gummis in this assortment. It might have a little note of green apple, but it’s very pleasant and a little more custard-like, probably because of the white kind of marshmallowy base. This was the most prevalent flavor in the bag, so I had quite a few of them.
I was hoping these would be a little more vibrant, that they’d have a little more pizazz. Wonka candies are usually known for being bold. Candies like Nerds and Runts are very specific. These were kind of tame. I appreciate the risks of making a naturally flavored & colored product and the unusual actual berry flavors instead of made up flavors. On the other side of that coin, all the flavors went together really well so it’s not like I noticed getting a “bad” flavor.
The allergen info on the bag has all the hot targets on it: made on shared equipment with peanuts, nuts, soy, milk, wheat and eggs. Also, it contains gelatin so it’s not vegetarian friendly.
Monday, December 28, 2009
I know some of you are thinking, “I could have sworn that Candy Blog already reviewed Turtles.” You’re not wrong. I did review Nestle Turtles a few years back.
What’s new is that they’re under new ownership. (Or maybe they’re under their original ownership.) Honestly I’m not sure of the history of De Met’s Turtles. Some sources on the web say that they were invented by De Met’s Rowntree in the UK in 1920. However, I also find notations that there was a candy company in Chicago called DeMet’s Candy, founded by Pierre DeMet.
Source - Chicago Sun Times - Chicago’s Best for Birthday Bash - March 5, 1987
Rowntree was bought by Nestle in 1988 and eventually changed the name to Nestle Turtles. Nestle only recently sold off the DeMet’s line of candies in 2008 along with a few other Nestle branded candies such as STIXX, Flipz (chocolate or yogurt covered pretzels) and Treasures. At first they were manufactured in the same facility in Canada, but recently the production has moved to the United States. This new move and different leadership means that I see Turtles where I didn’t used to.
Mostly I’ve been seeing the three Turtle package, which is considered a single serving, at drug stores. Priced around $1.19 it’s a little more upscale than a simple candy bar but not quite an all out high-end chocolate bar.
As far as I can tell, they’ve changed little from their previous owners. The packaging keeps them fresh, which is nice, though I’ve found that they’re lacking a little on the pecan side of things. The chocolate is sweet and though not actually chalky, I wouldn’t call it particularly creamy either.
Still, I enjoy them quite a bit. They’re comforting and well balanced. I enjoy caramel and nuts and only wish that the chocolate was better.
I saw a pair of these boxes - a set of Pecan and Cashew at CVS over the weekend in the Holiday candy section for $6.99. Each box holds 7 ounces, so it’s not a bad deal when on sale. The box still bears that notation that they use real Nestle milk chocolate (though for me that’s not much of a selling point).
Cashews aren’t that common in mass-marketed candies. Besides the Old Dominion nut brittle I reviewed I can’t think of any other cashew-based candies that can be picked up for less than $5 at a chain store. (Maybe Bridge Mix.) The box looks an awful lot like the pecan version, except for the amber badge that says Cashew on it. (The “Original” looks like this.)
I’m a big cashew fan, especially when combined with chocolate. This version seemed a little saltier. The cashews weren’t large, more like peanuts, but they had a good fresh crunch to them. They were a darker roast than I’m also fond of, but I admit that it went well with the toffee flavored caramel.
These have a little bit more substantial crunch and more chocolate flavor, probably because the cashews themselves don’t offer much. Pecans have more of a woodsy/maple note to them, but cashews are a little bit grassy and peanutty.
Since I had two boxes open at the same time, I found myself grabbing the Cashew more often. It could be the novelty or it could be that I just preferred them. Both are decent and I’m glad that they’re still being made. I still think they’re expensive, but when they’re fresh I do enjoy them. So I’m bumping up my rating from the Nestle-owned version to a 6 out of 10.
Friday, December 25, 2009
I hope all my Candy Blog readers are experiencing a happy holiday season. Candy Holidays, of course, are among the best so I hope you’re getting your fill of the best the season has to offer and the opportunity to share it with those you care about.
What sort of wonderful sweets did you get for Christmas this year? (Or did you make or give something particularly wonderful?)
Pictured above is a Choceur Chocolate Santa, which I’d rate about a 7 out of 10. It’s quite milky in the European style but also has a nice malty note. He’s a full 8 inches tall and 7.05 ounces. The dark and white chocolate accents and the molding design was wonderfully detailed.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.